Friday, October 30, 2015

On SLPS, 'accreditation' and the appointed board, by Susan Turk

BG comment:

I think accreditation has always been a political instrument, that reflects only in a very obligue way, the quality of what might be happening in SLPS.   Accreditation was taken away for a political reason (to appoint the SAB).  Provisional accreditation was returned for a political reason (to stop the flood of transfer demands and lawsuits that would have followed Turner v. Clayton.  The possibility of accreditation returning now is equally political (to justify the dismantling of democratic process and the corporate and mayor-led takeover of the district to promote charters, real estate development deals and other private interests).

We can never really know what accreditation means until there is much more transparency in these processes of evaluation and decision-making.  And, since the takeover was meant as much to shut out the public as anything else, we cannot expect much transparency going forward.

At any rate, here's the take of Susan Turk on all of this, and of course, sign the petition:

Mayor Slay’s Ambition
By Susan Turk

October 29, 2015 – St. Louis --With the good news that the SLPS has earned enough points on its Annual Progress Report to qualify for the state board of education to vote to return its full accreditation, word comes from City Hall that Mayor Slay is giving all the credit for this accomplishment to the SAB.  Not Dr. Adams.  Not the teachers. Not the students.
Although state law only provides for SABs to run unaccredited districts and the SLPS has been provisionally accredited since 2013, the Mayor is in no hurry to see them go.  And state law makes no provision for the removal of SABs.  Once appointed, they serve at the pleasure of the state board of education in possible perpetuity.
Last Friday, the mayor was overheard to say that he thinks the appointed SAB is doing a good job and that if they are replaced it should be by a hybrid board of both appointed and elected members.  That would mean the existing elected board of education will never be returned to authority over the SLPS.
Last spring, the SAB hired the law firm of Lewis, Rice and Fingerish to provide lobbying services for the upcoming 2016 legislative session in addition to their long time lobbyist, Steve Carroll.  Carroll would have gladly taken on the additional work. The assumption is that the additional work is the writing and lobbying of legislation to create a hybrid board.  Such a board was envisioned by the Danforth Freeman committee which recommended the state takeover of the SLPS after Supt Creg Williams resigned in 2006.
The hybrid board would slowly take shape over a period of years involving several elections. The Danforth Freeman envisioned hybrid would gradually become a fully elected board over 3 election cycles or about 5 years.    The Mayor’s idea appears to be a permanent hybrid board.  What shape it would take, how many appointed members and how many elected is anybody’s guess at this point. Legislation begins to be pre-filed in December.
The Legislature is a quirky institution. The final form of the legislation is likely to not resemble the original.  Most bills regarding education are lumped together into one omnibus bill annually which includes provisions regarding charter school, virtual school and tuition tax credit (voucher) expansion as well as such thorny issues as inter-district transfers from unaccredited districts.  The governor has wisely vetoed many of these bills and his vetoes have at times been sustained.  Last year’s education omnibus bill was vetoed because of a provision sponsored by state Senator Maria Chapelle Nadal which would have allowed for vouchers pay tuition at private schools for students from unaccredited districts.  That veto was sustained. So, there is no guarantee that hybrid board legislation will survive the legislative process.
DESE Commissioner Vandeven has indicated that a decision about future governance of the SLPS is coming this spring.  The SABs current term ends June 39, 2016. Vandeven has indicated that whether the elected board returns to authority depends on the citizens of the city demonstrating support for their return.  One way to demonstrate support is to sign an online petition at
Please sign the petition and forward the link for it to everyone you know.